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A.C. No.

3455 April 14, 1998


ARSENIO A. VILLAFUERTE, complainant,
vs.
ATTY. DANTE H. CORTEZ, respondent.

of respondent from the practice of law for three months with a warning
that a repetition of similar acts could be dealt with more severely than a
mere 3-month suspension.

On 30 August 1996, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No.


Feeling aggrieved by what he perceives to be a neglect in the handling XII-96-191 which
of his case by respondent lawyer, despite the latter's receipt of
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby
P1,750.00 acceptance and retainer fees, complainant Arsenio A.
ADOPTED and APPROVED, the Report and Recommendation
Villafuerte seeks, in the instant proceedings, the disbarment of Atty.
of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case,
Dante H. Cortez.
hereinmade part of this Resolution/Decision as Annex "A;" and,
finding the recommendation therein to be fully supported by the
From the records of the case and the Report submitted by the
evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules,
Commission on Bar Discipline ("CBD) of the Integrated Bar of the
Respondent Atty. Dante Cortez is hereby SUSPENDED from
Philippines ("IBP), it would appear that sometime in January 1987,
the practice of law for three (3) months with a warning that a
complainant, upon the referral of Atty. Rene A.V. Saguisag, went to the
repetition of the acts/omission complained of will be dealt with
office of respondent lawyer to discuss his case for "reconveyance" (Civil
more severely. 1
Case No. 83-18877). During their initial meeting, complainant tried to
reconstruct before respondent lawyer the incidents of the case merely
from memory prompting the letter to ask complainant to instead return
at another time with the records of the case. On 30 January 1987,
complainant again saw respondent but still sans the records.
Complainant requested respondent to accept the case, paying to the
latter the sum of P1,750.00 representing the acceptance fee of
P1,500.00 and P250.00 retainer fee for January 1987. Respondent
averred that he accepted the money with much reluctance and only
upon the condition that complainant would get the records of the case
from, as well as secure the withdrawal of appearance of, Atty. Jose
Dizon, the former counsel of complainant. Allegedly, complainant never
showed up thereafter until November 1989 when he went to the office of
respondent lawyer but only to leave a copy of a writ of execution in Civil
Case No. 062160-CV, a case for ejectment, which, according to
respondent, was never priorly mentioned to him by complainant.
Indeed, said respondent, he had never entered his appearance in the
aforenumbered case.
In its report, IBP-CBD concluded that the facts established would just
the same indicate sufficiently a case of neglect of duty on the part of
respondent. The CBD rejected the excuse proffered by respondent that
the non-receipt of the records of the case justified his failure to
represent complainant. The IBP-CBD, through Commissioner Julio C.
Elamparo, recommended to the IBP Board of Governors the suspension

Both respondent lawyer and complainant filed with the IBP-CBD their
respective motions for the reconsideration of the foregoing resolution.
On 23 August 1997, the Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XII97-66 that
RESOLVE to CONFIRM Resolution No. XII-96-191 of the Board
of Governors Meeting dated August 30, 1996 SUSPENDING
Atty. Dante Cortez from the practice of law for three (3) months
with a warning that a repetition of the acts/omission complained
of will be dealt with more severely. 2
The Court agrees with the IBP-CBD in its findings and conclusion that
respondent lawyer has somehow been remiss in his responsibilities.
The Court is convinced that a lawyer-client relationship, given the
circumstances, has arisen between respondent and complainant.
Respondent lawyer has admitted having received the amount of
P1,750.00, including its nature and purpose, from complainant. His
acceptance of the payment effectively bars him from altogether
disclaiming the existence of an attorney-client relationship between
them. It would not matter really whether the money has been intended
to pertain only to Civil Case No. 83-18877 or to include Civil Case No.
062160-CV, there being no showing, in any event, that respondent
lawyer has attended to either of said cases. It would seem that he
hardly has exerted any effort to find out what might have happened to

his client's cases. A lawyer's fidelity to the cause of his client requires
him to be ever mindful of the responsibilities that should be expected of
him. 3 He is mandated to exert his best efforts to protect, within the
bounds of the law, the interests of his client. The Code of Professional
Responsibility cannot be any clearer in its dictum than when it has
stated that a "lawyer shall serve his client with competence and
diligence," 4 decreeing further that he "shall not neglect a legal matter
entrusted to him." 5

All considered, the Court deems it proper to reduce the recommended


period of suspension of the IBP from three months to one month.
WHEREFORE, Atty. Dante H. Cortez is hereby SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for a period of one month from notice hereof, with a
warning that a repetition of similar acts and other administrative lapses
will be dealt with more severely than presently.

Let a copy of this Resolution be made a part of the personal records of


respondent lawyer in the Office of the Bar Confidant, Supreme Court of
Complainant, nevertheless, is not entirely without fault himself. He the Philippines, and let copies thereof be furnished to the Integrated Bar
cannot expect his case to properly and intelligently handled without of the Philippines and be circulated to all courts.
listening to his own counsel and extending full cooperation to him. It is
not right for complainant to wait for almost two years and to deal with his
lawyer only after receiving an adverse decision.